Gov. Wolf’s Indefensible Decisions Continue to Hurt Students

Pennsylvania’s successful scholarship programs—the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC)—are in danger once again. The Wolf Administration has delayed the programs’ approval letters, which will jeopardize the funding necessary to save students from poorly performing schools.

A similar situation occurred in 2015 when the Wolf Administration refused to release approval letters, claiming its hands were tied because funding levels had yet to be authorized for the programs. At the time, my colleague Nate debunked the administration’s weak justification for undermining scholarships for students in need:

The Wolf Administration justifies withholding tax credits by claiming its “hands are tied” due to the budget impasse.

But this makes little sense. The EITC and OSTC are not appropriations that are part of the budget.

Instead, they’re part of Pennsylvania’s tax code. This code is in effect despite the budget impasse. After all, everyone reading this is still paying taxes.

Simply put, Gov. Wolf is manufacturing this disruption. His actions already cost more than 8,000 students a chance at a scholarship in 2015-16. And now he’s willing to place additional hardships on the students, families, and school officials who depend on the EITC and OSTC.

The York Dispatch profiled one Pennsylvania school—Logos Academy—and its CEO, Aaron Anderson, to highlight just how destructive the Wolf Administration’s decision has been:

Anderson said Logos has already lost about $100,000 in contributions from donors who complained that the program was becoming too much of a hassle.

… Between last year and 2015, Anderson said Logos has burned through its reserve funds and had to take out lines of credit to keep the school operational. More lines of credit – which result in thousands of dollars in interest payments – will have to be opened this year, Anderson worried, if the state continues to delay sending out approval letters.

Gov. Wolf’s insistence that he is following the law on this issue—even though this claim lacks merit as scholarship programs are not part of the budget—is odd considering his complete lack of regard for Pennsylvania’s Constitution and the Administrative Code—both of which require the governor to ensure the state operates under a balanced budget. But this hasn’t happened for the last two years.

The governor has even spent money without authorization from the General Assembly. So to claim the delay in scholarships is necessary under the law is hypocritical at best or an effort to use Pennsylvania students as leverage for tax increases at worst.